Today I did a test run to the supervised visit center we will use beginning next week. There are not many visit centers to choose from, and even fewer that actually follow best practice standards to some degree. The center we will use is about an hour from where we live. In fact, it is the closest center to us. Supervised visits were the only type of visit that the judge approved of for the dad, back in January of 2017. Those visits went on for about 4-5 months until the behavior of the dad and his mother at the visits became beyond disturbing to the kids. The visits were halted, and Brother ended up in a psychotic break, including self harming, and trips to the hospital. Visits would not start again until a therapist felt that Brother was ready, and had evidence that the dad could maintain boundaries for a short visit.
After our last experience with a visit center, I have become more proactive in advocating for the needs of Brother. I was very trusting the last time, that the center would do what they said they would do. That didn’t work out, and cost a lot of heartache, time, and money to get the kids back on track.
I went to meet the new center, armed with the Supervised Visitation Network’s standards. I insisted on a written copy of their policies, even though they said they were really only for the visiting parent. I went through each policy out loud, with both Brother and the main supervisor. I also pointed out some additional concerns that arose before, like a supervisor being on the cell phone or social media during the visit. I also made sure that we were clear on drop off and pick up procedures, and had a way to communicate if someone was going to be late or absent. The center is in a bit of a run down kind of neighborhood where I would definitely not feel safe being in a hidden parking area with the dad, without supervision or even a police escort!
This is the “building”, and the actual visitation room has its own entrance in the back. Brother was close to a panic attack when we started down the street. I actually had a different address, and had not been informed that the address on their web page was not correct. The supervisor sent me the new address when it got close to our scheduled arrival time. I drove to the address she gave, and it was obviously someone’s private residence. She texted me to go to the back, which I did. It felt wrong and creepy. I texted back that I was pulling into the church at the end of the street. The next thing, I was texted that she had given me the wrong house number! That was certainly not a very strong start.
It is difficult to convey the complexity of the years of litigation we have been through, but I wanted to make one thing clear. When the kids’ therapists think they are ready to increase visits, or reduce supervision, I am on board. I do not need to go through litigation to do what the kids need. If the dad does not want to do what is in the best interest of the kids, he will not be supported by me or child advocates. He has burned those bridges many times over.
I like to be positive…glass half full, but it is hard. I have had to compartmentalize my thoughts and feelings about the trauma I lived in with the dad, and remind myself that those days are behind me. The only thing I have to navigate now is making sure to follow the court order and the guidance of the kids’ therapists. I already know that unless some miraculous change has occurred, the dad will play the victim card and try to triangulate with the supervisor. In my proactive endeavor, I have already addressed this elephant, and reiterated to the supervisor and Brother, that the supervisor does NOT make the decisions about increasing visits or removing supervision. I hope and expect that the dad will respect boundaries during their visits, especially when he knows the supervisor is paying attention. I do not expect that Brother will be able to advocate for himself in front of the dad, or point out a need to change conversation topics. His feelings about the actual visits will come out later with his counselor or with me.